A shocking coywolf attack in Cape Breton – updated

Skyline Trail-sA very sad update: The woman attacked by two coywolves succumbed to her injuries overnight. Deepest sympathy to her family and friends for their unimaginable loss.

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The shocking news that a 19-year-old Toronto-area woman was attacked and “very, very seriously” injured by a pair of coyotes in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park this afternoon will undoubtedly focus attention on recent reports that Eastern Coyotes are in fact a hybrid of coyotes and wolves, or coywolves.

We offer heartfelt hopes for a speedy and complete recovery for the unidentified woman, who was hiking on the popular and well used Skyline Trail north of Cheticamp—a trail Contrarian has often hiked with family and friends. The injured woman has been airlifted to Halifax, where she is in critical condition. RCMP officers who happened to be nearby came to her assistance. They shot and apparently wounded one of the animals; however both escaped into the woods.

CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks recently interviewed Dr. Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals at New York State Museum, about genetic testing he carried out on coyotes in that state, indicating that, as they moved east, coyotes interbred with remnant wolf populations:

Coyotes are a newcomer to Nova Scotia, the earliest confirmed specimin having been taken in Guysborough in 1977. The 30- to 50-pound Eastern Coyote is larger and darker than its western cousin, and typically occupies woodlands, not the grassy habitat favored by pure coyotes.

Coywolf-csKays found that the head and jaw of the coywolf are better adapted for taking down the white tailed deer that flourish here. In effect, as the coyote took over the wolf’s ecological niche in eastern North America, it became part-wolf.

The Knight Science Journalism Tracker has links to more stories about the coywolf, including articles from AAAS Science Now, Discovery, and Scientific American.

Canadian Press quotes Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources spokesman Don Anderson as saying a young Ontario girl was bitten several years ago on the Skyline Trail. “That coyote was put down and sent away for testing and it came back negative for rabies or anything like that,” he said.

Hat tip: SP.